It’s an inescapable truth of life, that no matter how mature and independent you assume to be, what mom thinks is always important. And with the KIA Picanto, that’s an issue, because my mom drives one. Bit of a dilemma… how does one approach the analysis of new car, for fear of offending mom? Fortunately, I’m given to professionalism at times and secondly, there’s never been much wrong with KIA’s Picanto – other than it not having a VW badge. The third-generation Korean supermini is an evolution of established excellence, a car so popular that it outsells all its rivals in South Africa.
If you’re after a proper compact city car that isn’t reminiscent of fast-food restaurant furniture quality inside, there’s only ever been three choices locally: i10, Up and Picanto. KIA’s supermini has always been the most attractive of all three and the Koreans have always bested VW’s Up by having a feature which is non-negotiable for my mom: an automatic transmission. Engines are familiar 1- and 1.25-litre MPIs, with the latter good for 61kW, 122Nm and the only sensible option is you’re not doing all your motoring in oxygen rich environments of Cape Town, PE or Durban. Although exterior dimensions remain unchanged – which mean it’s equally easy to park as you remember – new Picanto does have a longer wheelbase, which adds credence to KIA’s claim of it having the most spacious cabin in class. The 15mm extra between front and rear axles also mean Picanto is that bit more stable at speed and thanks to an all-new platform, featuring 44% more high strength steel content than the old one, there’s reassuring rigidity when you get up to, well, speed.
It’s a vastly more mature car to drive, more aligned to what we expect from a Polo-class hatch than a supermini. The cabin’s styling and ergonomics are fantastic and Picanto 7-inch floating centre-stack touchscreen will appeal greatly to the millennial audience KIA’s keen to conquer. Millennial are people obsessed “with product appearance and anything remotely connected to their Smartphone, and with its new wraparound headlights and brilliant infotainment and app synching, Picanto’s been expertly formulated to fulfil that function. Millennial are not bothered by drum brakes at the rear, or the fact that 15-inches is the largest wheel option. They won’t even notice the 13% quicker steering ratio, reducing total lock-to-lock steering effect by half a turn.
I’m not a millennial but was deeply impressed with new Picanto, on first acquaintance, although I kept wondering whether my mom would like it. She’d overwhelmingly approve of the 55 additional litres of boot space KIA’s engineers have managed to find and certainly dismiss my misgivings about Picanto still being short of a gear. Much as I’d argue for a five-speed auto or six-speed manual, citing performance asphyxiation by altitude for Gauteng drivers, but mom doesn’t care much for that. She lives in Cape Town and loves her Picanto -which I advised her to buy, of course.